Bar Counsel: Oh My!
From Washington Lawyer, June 2005
By Gene Shipp
On March 23, 2005, the Board on Professional Responsibility offered me the job of bar counsel. After a close straw vote by the staff, I agreed to accept. On April 8 Chief Judge Annice Wagner of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals swore me in as the seventh bar counsel. My first comment was “Oh my!”
Now, it cannot be said that I did not know what I was getting myself into. I have been around a long time, which is to say I am old. My predecessors were terrific, talented, and intimidating to follow. I wrote a similar column five years ago in which I set forth the first six. I would like to update those remembrances.
Fred Grabowsky, the first bar counsel, opened the doors of the Office of Bar Counsel after a career in the U.S. Marine Corps and a lively private practice primarily in criminal defense. He served as bar counsel for 10 years and then went to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Fred, now retired, was at our holiday party. He looks terrific. (I was hired by Fred, so we can all blame him.)
Tom Henderson, the second bar counsel, served a three-year stint after leaving the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. Tom recently retired as the executive director of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.
Tom Flynn, who retired from the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, became the third bar counsel, for a three-year cruise. Admiral Flynn is also retired.
Fred Abramson, the fourth bar counsel, had previously been president of the D.C. Bar and in private practice. Fred died far too young—six months after assuming the position. The Frederick B. Abramson Memorial Foundation, established in his memory, carries on his good work of mentoring the youth of our city and public interest attorneys.
Len Becker, a partner at Arnold & Porter LLP, was bar counsel number five. He served a lengthy tour of seven years before returning to Arnold & Porter. Len has since moved to the Attorney General’s Office and is now the mayor’s attorney.
Joyce Peters took the reins as our sixth bar counsel on January 31, 2000. She came with 23 years’ experience in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps and five years at the Department of Justice. Joyce resigned after serious but successful ankle surgery shortly after her fifth anniversary. Undoubtedly, Colonel Peters will return to the practice of law as soon as she is completely healed.
To each I express the appreciation of the D.C. Court of Appeals, the Board on Professional Responsibility, and the D.C. Bar, as well as my personal thanks. The Office of Bar Counsel has benefited from their direction, dedication, and wisdom.
The Office of Bar Counsel has jurisdiction over the investigation and prosecution of ethical misconduct by any of the 80,000 members of the D.C. Bar. Who is this staff that is sometimes referred to as Internal Affairs?
- Elizabeth “Betsy” Herman (20 years), senior assistant bar counsel, formerly a D.C. public defender and an attorney with the Criminal Enforcement Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;
- Julia Porter (13 years), senior assistant bar counsel, formerly an attorney with a midsize firm;
- Judith “Judy” Hetherton (4 years), senior assistant bar counsel, formerly an assistant U.S. attorney, assistant independent counsel, private practitioner, and general counsel to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development;
- Ross Dicker (19 years), assistant bar counsel, formerly a D.C. public defender and an attorney in the civil rights division of the Department of Justice.
- John Rooney (19 years), assistant bar counsel, formerly an attorney with a midsize firm;
- Clay Smith (14 years), assistant bar counsel, formerly an attorney with a large firm;
- Traci Tait (13 years), assistant bar counsel, formerly an attorney with a small firm;
- Catherine Kello (5 years), assistant bar counsel, formerly an attorney with a large firm;
- Joe Bowman (3 years), assistant bar counsel, formerly a criminal defense attorney with death penalty experience;
- Asma Naeem (4 years), assistant bar counsel for intake, formerly with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office;
- Lawrence Bloom (5 years), staff attorney, formerly employed with a small firm and an attorney with a mortgage company; and
- Gene Shipp (24 years), formerly a solo practitioner with a Fifth Street emphasis.
We will talk some more later when I figure this out. One tip: when you get a letter from the Office of Bar Counsel, open it!
Disciplinary Actions Taken by the Board on Professional Responsibility
In re Joel Chasnoff. Bar No. 22673. March 1, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court impose reciprocal discipline and disbar Chasnoff. The Maryland Court of Appeals disbarred Chasnoff by consent. The Maryland disciplinary case involved two separate matters. In the first Chasnoff was charged with violating Rules 1.1 (competence), 1.3 (neglect), 1.4 (failure to communicate), and 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct. In the second matter, which involved Chasnoff’s omissions or misstatement of material facts in a malpractice insurance application, he was charged with violating Rules 8.4(b) (criminal act reflecting on fitness), 8.4(c) (conduct involving dishonesty), and 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
In re James G. Gore Jr. Bar No. 427012. March 1, 2005. The board recommends that the court disbar Gore by consent.
In re Mark M. Hager. Bar No. 418262. March 18, 2005. The board recommends that the court grant Hager’s petition for reinstatement, conditioned upon (1) his disgorgement of $57,068, plus interest calculated at the legal rate of 6 percent from August 24, 1997, to September 24, 2004, to the District of Columbia Bar Clients’ Security Fund; (2) his agreement that he will turn over to that fund any tax benefits he might realize as a consequence of that disgorgement; and (3) his satisfactory completion of a continuing legal education course on professional responsibility.
In re Helena D. Mizrahi. Bar No. 425775. March 8, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Virginia, the board imposes functionally identical discipline and reprimands Mizrahi. The Virginia Disciplinary Board publicly reprimanded Mizrahi for engaging in conduct that involved misrepresentation before the court and knowingly advancing a claim or defense that was unwarranted under existing law, while representing a client in a domestic matter, in violation of Virginia Disciplinary Rules 1-102(A)(1), 1-102(A)(4), and 7-102(A)(2).
In re Randy M. Mott. Bar No. 211037. February 24, 2005. The board recommends that the court publicly censure Mott. Mott, while retained to represent a client in a personal injury matter, failed to maintain records of client funds, safe-keep client funds, and maintain client funds in a properly designated trust account, in violation of Rules 1.15(a) and 1.17(a) of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct and D.C. Bar Rule XI, § 19(f).
In re Gerald H. Parshall Jr. Bar No. 396877. February 18, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court impose nonidentical discipline and suspend Parshall for 18 months. The Maryland Court of Appeals approved a joint petition for reprimand by consent for Parshall’s violation of Rule 3.3 (knowingly making false statements of material fact or law to a court) of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct. Parshall admitted that sufficient evidence existed to show that he had knowingly made false statements to a court in June 2000 and thereafter submitted fabricated evidence in support of his false statements, while representing the United States in a tax refund suit.
In re Lillian J. Sondgeroth. Bar No. 269472. March 9, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Nevada, the board imposes nonidentical reciprocal discipline and reprimands Sondgeroth. A formal hearing panel of the Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board issued Sondgeroth a letter of private reprimand that stemmed from a “conditional guilty plea in exchange for a stated form of discipline,” in which Sondgeroth and Nevada Bar Counsel entered into a stipulation of facts that included Sondgeroth’s admission that, while representing a client in a domestic matter, she violated Rules 153 (diligence), 154 (communication), 156 (client confidences), 170 (meritorious claims), and 203(4) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) of the Nevada Supreme Court Rules. Sondgeroth also agreed to participate in certain programs and activities of a diversionary nature. Four members of the board dissented with regard to the matter that a letter of private reprimand issued by the chair of a formal hearing panel of the Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board is an order of discipline issued by a “disciplinary court” within the meaning of D.C. Bar Rule XI, § 11(b), and accordingly would dismiss the reciprocal matter, leaving Bar Counsel the option of initiating a proceeding against Sondgeroth as an original matter.
In re Robert B. Wilkins Jr. Bar No. 350777. March 8, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Alabama, the board recommends that the court impose identical reciprocal discipline and disbar Wilkins. The Supreme Court of Alabama disbarred Wilkins for violating 18 U.S.C. § 1708, for theft or receipt of stolen mail matter generally.
In re Dushan S. Zdravkovich. Bar No. 229567. March 16, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Maryland, the board recommends that the court impose identical reciprocal discipline and disbar Zdravkovich. The Maryland Court of Appeals disbarred Zdravkovich for intentionally misappropriating substantial sums that his client had paid over to him to be held in trust for the purchase of a motorcycle. Zdravkovich also failed to respond to legitimate inquiries from Maryland Bar Counsel during the course of the investigation.
Disciplinary Actions Taken by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals
In re Ivan Bogachoff. Bar No. 452152. February 24, 2005. The court disbarred Bogachoff. Bogachoff pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud in violation of U.S.C. § 1344, a crime involving moral turpitude per se, for which disbarment is mandatory under D.C. Code § 11-2503(a) (2001).
In re TonYa L. Daugherty. Bar No. 456827. March 10, 2005. The court disbarred Daugherty. Daugherty converted approximately $150,000 in estate funds to her personal use while serving as the executor of an estate in Virginia and pleaded guilty to two counts of felony embezzlement in violation of Virginia Code § 18.2-111 (2004), a crime involving moral turpitude per se, for which disbarment is mandatory under D.C. Code § 11-2503(a) (2001).
In re William B. Devaney. Bar No. 30189. March 3, 2005. The court disbarred Devaney. Devaney, while representing an elderly client in an estate matter, conveyed substantial gifts to himself and his family under the terms of three codicils he drafted, in violation of Rule 1.8(b); engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by drafting testamentary instruments in Virginia, where he was not licensed, in violation of Rule 5.5(a); and failed to represent his client with the thoroughness and preparation appropriate in advising a client with a multi-million-dollar estate, in violation of Rule 1.1(a).
In re Lucy R. Edwards. Bar No. 197020. March 17, 2005. From remand to the board for reconsideration of its sanction recommendation, the court suspended Edwards for six months with the requirement that she attend three hours of continuing legal education courses concerning the handling of entrusted funds before she resumes the practice of law, because she negligently misappropriated client funds. In addition, upon reinstatement, Edwards shall be on probation for a period of six months and during that period shall continue to be subject to the oversight of the practice monitor. The court had previously upheld the board’s finding that Edwards misappropriated funds given to her by one of her clients, but determined that she did not misappropriate funds in three other client matters.
In re James G. Gore. Bar No. 427012. March 17, 2005. The court disbarred Gore by consent.
In re Alexander Greenfeld. Bar No. 973222. March 24, 2005. The court indefinitely suspended Greenfeld based on disability.
In re Jeffrey C. Hines. Bar No. 233239. February 3, 2005. In two reciprocal matters from Maryland, consolidated by the court, the court imposed functionally identical discipline and suspended Hines for 25 months and two weeks with fitness. If Hines is summarily reinstated in Maryland, he may seek vacatur of the fitness requirement pursuant to the guidelines set forth in Board Rule 8.7. In the first matter, the Maryland Court of Appeals indefinitely suspended Hines on November 16, 2001, with the right to apply for readmission after six months, for violating Rules 1.7 (conflict of interest) and 5.1(c) (supervisory attorney’s responsibility) of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct. In the second matter, involving separate misconduct, on November 12, 2003, the Maryland Court of Appeals ordered Hines to remain indefinitely suspended with no right to petition for reinstatement before December 31, 2003, based on a joint petition for the continuation of his indefinite suspension filed by Hines and the Attorney Grievance Committee. Hines acknowledged there was sufficient evidence to sustain allegations of misconduct against him, specifically violations of Rules 1.3 (lawyer to act diligently and promptly), 1.4 (client must be kept adequately informed about the status of a matter), 5.3(c) (duty to reasonably supervise nonlawyer assistants), 1.15(a) (lawyer must hold client property separate from the lawyer’s own property), 1.15(b) (lawyer must promptly notify client upon receiving client funds), and 1.16(d) (lawyer must protect client’s interest upon termination of representation) of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct.
In re Robert W. Mance. Bar No. 285379. February 24, 2005. The court suspended Mance for 30 days, but stayed the suspension in favor of one year of unsupervised probation with the additional condition that he attend six hours of continuing legal education courses in ethics and law office management within the first six months of his probation. While representing a client on appeal of a criminal matter, Mance failed to assert and preserve his client’s rights, in violation of Rule 1.1(a); failed to serve his client with appropriate skill and care and take corrective action when he missed a deadline, in violation of Rule 1.1(b); failed to represent his client zealously and diligently, in violation of Rule 1.3(a); failed to seek the lawful objectives of his client by taking necessary action once notified that the appeal was untimely, in violation of Rule 1.3(b)(1); failed to communicate reasonably with his client, in violation of Rule 1.4(a); failed to withdraw as counsel after his client terminated the representation, in violation of Rule 1.16(a)(3); and engaged in conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice by failing to take action and provide information as directed by the court, in violation of Rule 8.4(d).
In re John H. Partridge. Bar No. 447514. February 3, 2005. In a reciprocal matter from Virginia, the court imposed functionally equivalent reciprocal discipline and disbarred Partridge. Partridge consented to the revocation of his license to practice law in Virginia following four disciplinary proceedings involving findings of serious professional misconduct, including dishonesty, incompetence, neglect, and intentionally prejudicing or damaging a client.
In re David D. Reynolds. Bar No. 446190. February 10, 2005. The court denied Reynolds’s petition for reinstatement.
In re Donald L. Schlemmer. Bar No. 414582. March 17, 2005. From remand to the board for reconsideration on the issue of sanction, the court adopted the recommendation of the board to sanction Schlemmer with a board reprimand. Schlemmer violated Rules 1.3(a) and 1.4(a) by failing to file an appeal and failing to advise his client that an appeal had not been filed in an immigration matter.
In re Kenneth H. Shepherd. Bar No. 68262. March 3, 2005. The court publicly censured Shepherd and ordered him to take a professional responsibility course. Shepherd, who was retained to represent a client in a personal injury matter, neglected his client’s matter when he failed to appear at a long-scheduled prehearing conference; failed to communicate with his client regarding his intention to withdraw as counsel of record and have another attorney assume responsibility for her matter; failed to notify the court that he intended to withdraw as counsel of record; and failed to seek or obtain the court’s permission for his withdrawal and substitution of counsel. His client’s matter was dismissed when he failed to appear for the prehearing conference. Shepherd violated Rules 1.3(a), 1.3(c), 1.4(a), 1.16(d), and 8.4(d).
In re Eric Steele. Bar No. 410226. February 17, 2005. The court suspended Steele for three years and conditioned reinstatement on fitness and making restitution to one client in the amount of $2,250 plus interest at the legal rate, and to another client in the amount of $1,500 plus interest at the legal rate. In four separately docketed matters, Steele was found to have violated 13 different rule provisions, for a total of 26 violations. In four separate employment matters, Steele failed to represent his clients zealously, to seek his clients’ lawful objectives, to expedite his clients’ litigation, to keep his clients reasonably informed about the status of their matters, to explain matters to the extent reasonably necessary to permit his clients to make informed decisions regarding their representations, and to protect his clients’ interests after termination of their representation. Steele also misrepresented the status of a motion to one of his clients. In a fifth employment matter, Steele intentionally prejudiced and damaged his client during the course of the representation, knowingly made a false statement of material fact to a tribunal, engaged in conduct that seriously interfered with the administration of justice, knowingly made a false statement of material fact to Bar Counsel in connection with a disciplinary matter, and engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation. Steele falsified a subpoena and filed it with a trial court to support his motion for a hearing continuance. When his motion was denied, Steele failed to appear at the prehearing conference and his client’s matter was dismissed. In all, Steele violated Rules 1.3(a), (b)(1), (b)(2) and (c); 1.4(a), (b), and (c); 1.16(d); 3.3(a)(1); 3.4(c); 8.1(a); and 8.4(c) and (d).
Informal Admonition Issued by the Office of Bar Counsel
In re Antoini M. Jones. Bar No. 428159. February 2, 2005. Bar Counsel issued Jones an informal admonition for violating Rule 1.5(b) by failing to provide a writing setting forth the basis or rate of his fee while representing his client in a criminal matter.
The Office of Bar Counsel compiled the foregoing summaries of disciplinary actions. Reports and recommendations issued by the Board on Professional Responsibility, as well as informal admonitions issued by the Office of Bar Counsel, are posted on the D.C. Bar Web site at www.dcbar.org. Court opinions are printed in the Atlantic Reporter and, for decisions issued since mid-1998, are also available online. To obtain a copy of a recent slip opinion, visit www.dccourts.gov/
dccourts/appeals/opinions_mojs.jsp. Please note that in some cases Bar members may have the same name. To confirm the identity of individuals who have been subject to discipline, contact the D.C. Bar Member Service Center at 202-626-3475 or firstname.lastname@example.org.